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Tobacco Use

Globally, more than 1 in 10 cardiovascular deaths are caused by smoking.
Around 1.2 million deaths are due to exposure to second-hand smoke.

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Globally, tobacco causes some 6 million deaths a year and poses a major risk for developing heart disease—it is also a highly preventable risk. Around 1.2 million deaths are due to exposure to second-hand smoke.

How tobacco is a health-stealer

Lung disease and cancer are linked to tobacco smoking but did you know smoking also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) or heart disease? Female smokers run a 25% higher risk for heart disease than male smokers.

Smoking is the leading preventable risk factor of cardiovascular diseases such as ischemic heart disease which narrows heart arteries and of cerebrovascular disease. Innocent bystanders are also at risk: nearly 6 million people die from tobacco use or exposure to second-hand smoke, accounting for 6% of female and 12% of male deaths worldwide, every year.

Smoking or chewing tobacco damages blood vessels, temporarily raises blood pressure and lowers exercise tolerance. By lowering the oxygen our blood can carry, tobacco use increases the risk of blood clots that can also lead to stroke and sudden death. The risk of a non-fatal heart attack increases by 5.6% for every cigarette smoked and persists even at only one to two cigarettes per day.

The many facets of tobacco impacts

Tobacco products include different forms (pipes, cigars, waterpipe tobacco for example), all forms being harmful. Here are some eye-openers about tobacco use:

  • Awareness of links between smoking and cardiovascular disease remains low in many parts of the world.
  • Over 80% of the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries.
  • More than 80% of adult deaths caused by second-hand smoke are due to heart disease.
  • In most countries surveyed around the world, the majority of smokers want to quit.
  • Quitting when older is still worthwhile: among smokers who quit at age 66 years, men gained up to two years of life, and women gained up to 3.7 years.

Quitting tobacco: benefits and actions

Immediate and long-term benefits of quitting tobacco include normalised blood pressure and heart rate, household savings and reduced second-hand smoke to all and the especially vulnerable— children and pregnant women.

For example, after one year, the risk of coronary heart disease is about half that of a smoker’s risk, and after 15 years the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker.

Playing our part in a smoke-free future:

  • Ensure that clear, comprehensive smoke-free policies are established and enforced in all health facilities, events, organizations, and training facilities (including universities and conferences).
  • Advocate at local, regional or national government levels for smoke-free public places and workplaces by encouraging the implementation and enforcement of smoke-free laws.
  • Implement programs and protocols for cessation support and advice.
  • Support the inclusion of tobacco cessation counselling into the medical undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral curriculum.
  • Increase the visibility of tobacco control issues at major clinical cardiology meetings and in continuing education programs, including smoking and SHS exposure.
  • Advocate for tobacco-free investments of your health institute’s pension fund, accountant and bank.

Quitting tobacco: resources

How to quit tobacco smoking?

6 MPOWER measures by WHO:

• Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies
• Protect people from tobacco use
• Offer help to quit tobacco use
• Warn about the dangers of tobacco
• Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
• Raise taxes on tobacco

Tobacco infographic

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